Dispatch → Meta → Reference
How Does: World Assembly, Understanding and Writing
So you want to be a World Assembly participant.
You poor, poor soul.
To start, if you have any basic questions about how the World Assembly works, check out our How Does: World Assembly dispatch which covers what it is, why it's split into two different chambers, how endorsements and delegates work, and so on. I'm writing under the assumption that you have baseline knowledge of the WA and want to get more involved. This dispatch is going to cover how to get started drafting your own WA proposal, as well as advice on how to interpret and critique the proposals written by others. I'm going to be focusing primarily on the General Assembly, because frankly I think anyone with a serious interest in SC writing probably knows more on that front than me.
How Does: Reading World Assembly Legislation
Let's start by briefly talking about how to read the stuff people write in the World Assembly. I think spending some time getting familiar with the writing of others is the best way to understand the standards and expectations of the WA, as well as recognizing pitfalls you may want to avoid.
Reading: The General Assembly
General Assembly legislation is written as law, which means it should be specific, narrow, and very clear in its demands. As a result, much of what passes through the GA is broad, vague, and hard to decipher, but by understanding the basic structure you can begin to recognize what's important. Almost all GA resolutions begin with a preamble: this is where the author writes a bunch of stuff that explains and justifies the need for their law, but the preamble will not contain any legally binding statements. These can come in several styles, but for today's lesson we'll use a currently-queued referendum by the late Magecastle Embassy Building A5, titled "Public Endangered Species Table":
• promote awareness regarding endangered organisms whose endangerment would otherwise be overlooked, in turn encouraging conservation action;
• help member nations tailor their conservation efforts to be more efficient, as knowledge of endangered organisms would be more available; and
• aid further research regarding endangered organisms, in turn further facilitating conservation thereof;
Excited by the further benefits of the World Assembly engaging in its own research vis-a-vis endangered species, which would facilitate member nations' own conservation and research efforts;
The World Assembly enacts as follows, subject to past World Assembly law still in force.
Note the verbiage and tense of each line - "excited," "believing," etc. This is a common style of writing in the WA, and list items frequently don't include full stops or periods. These specific stylistic choices aren't mandatory, but prospective authors do need to mind certain rules - more on those later. Following the preamble, a GA proposal will contain a series of mandates, usually in the form of a list. They'll frequently include definitions for key terms at the end of the preamble or beginning or the proposal text, and this is something to pay attention to. For instance, New Kowloon Bay's proposed "Minimum Standard of Living Act" includes the following clause:
In the resolution, which aims to ensure citizens of member states are able to attain a basic standard of comfort and security, the details are crucial. Look at what's included in their definition, and take extra note of what isn't. Despite mentioning a person's need to live with health and dignity, the resolution fails to include healthcare in its standard of living. You need to be able to carry this kind of information forward through the rest of the text and remember that every subsequent use of a defined term is only as strong as the definition itself, and a bad definition can sink an entire resolution.
I'm not going to go too much deeper into the nuts and bolts of line-by-line dissection, but I do want to note the importance of mandates versus recommendations. A proposal that contains strongly worded requirements is very different from one which mostly "urges" or "recommends" or "encourages" member states to take an action. In the "Minimum Standard of Living Act," we can see a great instance of this:
3. Encourages member states to promote this guarantee via providing incentives, financial or otherwise, to companies which assist in this guarantee.
We can see that clause 2 is absolutely certain in its requirement that member governments provide the standard of living, but clause 3 only encourages. This is non-binding and acts only as a suggestion to member states rather than a piece of law, and as a result you can essentially ignore clause 3 when evaluating the actual impact of the proposal.
If you'd like some examples of this type of analysis in action, you can check out some of Refugia's Information for Voters statements which seek to make resolutions at vote grokkable. PUT LINKS HERE DON'T FORGET
Reading: The Security Council
As the SC isn't my area of expertise, I'm going to keep this brief and hopefully expand it with more feedback someday. Reading SC proposals is an artform and can require a lot of extra context and knowledge, and this is largely because of the SC's rule 2, the "Fourth Wall" rule. This states that SC writing must not acknowledge that NationStates is a webgame, nor can they show awareness that nations are run by individual humans IRL, etc. As a result, the Security Council is full of euphemisms for various people, places, activities, etc. These can range from the characterization of raid/defense gameplay as military conflicts to the description of trading cards as "international artwork" to creating backronyms for off-site tools and resources like IRC.
Beyond this, SC writing will rely heavily on references to past events and accomplishments which you may not be aware of. The first few paragraphs of Westinor's proposed "Commend Riemstagrad" include mentions of attacks on the region Belgium, the disappearance of Belgium's delegate Paq, ties to the region Nederland, and participation in the Global Liberation Alliance. I don't know what any of those things are and I'm not going to find out, but you might need to if you want to make an informed decision. Reading the forum thread where a proposal was drafted can be enlightening and provide further resources to learn about a candidate.
Repeals read slightly differently than other types of resolutions because at their core they're argumentative writing. Whether it's in the GA or the SC, a repeal is going to consist of a series of claims regarding the resolution it's trying to undo. These will be written similarly to SC writing or GA preambles: lots of sentences beginning with words like "APPALLED" and "DISMAYED" and so on. Each line in a repeal is going to try and convince the reader that the law in question is flawed or otherwise unnecessary, in the case of the GA, or that the commendation or condemnation in question is undeserving or ill-conceived in the case of the SC. Let's look at sections of Gemeinschaftsland's current attempt to repeal GAR#609, "Limiting Animal Pathogens".
Concerned that General Assembly Resolution #609 “Limiting Animal Pathogens, ” in seeking to accomplish this worthwhile goal, is unfortunately burdened with many substantial and quite frankly unacceptable oversights, in particular:
i. Finding Clause 2d's requirement that "Any person who tests positive [for a zoonotic disease] under this paragraph may not work at any wet market until such person reliably tests negative for the same zoonotic disease" to be particularly imprudent, not only in that it does not necessarily require that the most reliable tests available be used, but also insofar as it could disbar wet market employees from such work indefinitely (if not permanently) in cases where they are unable to consistently test negative for zoonotic diseases, even when this would pose little to no risk to public health, such as:
a. Scenarios in which the only available methods of testing have an unacceptable level of accuracy and where there is a high probability of potentially devastating false diagnosis. The issue is only broadened by the lack of any provision requiring that the most reliable tests be those used. Ultimately, all kinds of wet market workers may very well find themselves unable to "reliably [test] negative for the same zoonotic disease", thus preventing them from returning to work and putting their well-being at risk.
b. Scenarios where a qualifying zoonotic infection (of which there are many) may be treated to the point of safety and nontransmissibility but remains persistent or latent in a host; infected wet market workers, despite posing no further danger to themselves or others, may find themselves unable to ever consistently receive negative test results, permanently preventing them from providing for themselves and their loved ones.
c. Situations where, even though a disease can be cured and relevant tests may be broadly accurate, the only available testing (such as serology tests) can still return positive results in the weeks, months, and even years after an infection has been effectively cured, thereby preventing afflicted wet market employees from returning to their trades for a significant, or permanent, stretch of time.
At first this might seem overwhelming, but we can look back at the resolution it's targeting to break down these claims and understand what Schafty is saying. Let's look at GAR#609's section 2(d), which the above excerpt is calling into question:
We can see here that the original resolution is trying to ensure that employees of wet markets (which are also defined earlier in this resolution) are disallowed from working when they could be transmitting "communicable zoonotic diseases" - these being diseases which are "caused by a pathogen" and which are "capable of being transmitted from a nonsapient being to a sapient being." The repeal is making the assertion that there are situations in which employees who test positively for these types of diseases may still be able to safely work without endangering the public, if for instance their nation's available testing is subpar and of low accuracy, or if the pathogen causes post-infection positive test results.
Are these arguments credible? Maybe - it seems true that there are cases like tuberculin skin tests where recovering from an illness or even just receiving the test can cause false positives down the road through other testing methods, which could prevent healthy employees from working. But it also seems prudent to note that the law in question qualifies itself by saying "until such person reliably tests negative." The standard is unclear and leaves room for the results to be interpreted differently based on whether or not certain tests are deemed reliable.
How Does: Writing General Assembly Legislation
Now that you've learned to read, you're probably eager to get in there and outdo all the other lousy authors out there. But be patient, young simplebot. Many people rush into the halls of this least august body and toss the first thing they can think of into the approval queue. You will never ever write a successful proposal this way. Only by following this handy seven (7) step guide, As Seen on Skyrail(tm), will you ensure a healthy chance of success and survival. As I mentioned earlier, I'm focusing on the General Assembly here. Certain principles of drafting will carry over to the SC, but the rules, types of resolutions, and expectations are significantly different and would require their own guide in the future.
Step One (1): Have an Idea
"But Nat," you interrupt, "I have tons of ideas! Tonnes, even! I'm going to skip ahead to the next section!" Skip no more, nimble fool. A bad idea makes a bad referendum. Ensuring that your core notion is viable is of the utmost importance.
The first thing you want to consider is whether your idea is allowed by the rules. Those rules are available at this very link, but they're pretty badly written so I'll hit the high points for you. You can't write in first person, nor can you write from the perspective of your own nation. You can't contradict existing WA resolutions; if your idea is at odds with something that's on the books, you're going to have to get that repealed and convince people yours is better. There are no amendments or revisions in the WA. You can't include real world references, such as political parties, existing real life nations, major historical events, etc. You can't impose any restrictions or laws on non-WA nations. You can't make direct references to NationStates itself or out of character components of it. And you most definitely very much cannot plagiarize, either from other users, from previously passed or repealed resolutions, or from real world laws. Oh, and your proposal has to actually do something, it can't be a feel good acknowledgement with no mandates.
The one other thing to consider is that your idea should be applicable to people's non-human nation concepts - a common benchmark is whether your writing would apply to someone such as Potted Plants United, a nation whose lore involves them being a bunch of sentient potted plants. This means you usually can't get away with direct references to human anatomy and physiology, lifespans, sizes, etc., and should try to tailor your work around broader benchmarks which could apply even to a country run by otters on a moon.
Now that first rule I mentioned is probably the most important: you can't contradict currently active legislation. But how can you find out whether that's the case? This handy forum thread, from local encyclopedia Inglorium Anglorium, contains a directory with the full text of every GA resolution that's ever been passed. This is invaluable, and your first stop once you have a concept should be to search every related term you can think of and read all the relevant laws currently on the books. For example, if you want to regulate the logging industry, you might find that GAR#422, "Promoting Sustainable Timber," is relevant to your needs - and you'll note that it was immediately repealed, making it something worth considering but not necessary to write around. On the other hand, any future regulation of collective punishment hinges on being compatible with GAR#611. It seems daunting at first, but skimming through for relevant writing doesn't take that long and it's best to get it done early before you've invested significant time in writing.
Additionally, you can look up real world laws on your subject to see how actual lawmakers have navigated the same issues. You can't plagiarize - and that includes simple rewordings of existing texts - but you can synthesize these ideas with yours to get a better informed idea of how to approach the topic.
I want to touch on one other wrinkle here: the rules for writing repeals. Obviously if your idea is to repeal something, you've got something pretty concrete to work towards. You should still read similar resolutions to help bolster your case, but you should also be aware of the Honest Mistake rule, which basically means you're not allowed to outright misrepresent the text or outcome of the resolution you're repealing unless the GA Secretariat likes you.
Step Two (2): Write Some Stuff
Now, you just take everything you've learned and put it into words! It sounds simple, and it's not at all really because writing is hard. Remember what we talked about earlier when discussing the basic structure of GA writing (see: Reading: The General Assembly). Your draft will start with a preamble where you make your case. When I was cowriting GAR#543, "Protecting the Rights of Labour Unions," we ended up with a fairly short one:
Acknowledging the imbalance of power between workers and employers,
Avowing that detailed mandates are necessary to protect workers' rights,
You can see a couple of common applications for preambles here: you're laying out basic facts that act as the foundation for your case - for instance, that bosses and subordinate workers have fundamentally different amounts and types of power in the work force. Sometimes you'll also work in a concession clause, where you acknowledge the opposition or risks. Preambles are all political theatre, and you'll certainly revise it over time. The "hereby" at the end is to transition into the body text, which is laid out as a list of instructions the GA is issuing to its members. There are other constructions you can use instead, but this method is one of the most common and a good place to start while you're learning.
As discussed before, the body text is traditionally list-formatted. If you have terms that need to be defined - this is done sometimes for clarity, if you're leaning on a term like "labour union" that can have multiple meanings, and sometimes for space if you need to shorten a lengthy phrase that appears a lot - those definitions will usually come first, so everybody understands things going forward. After that, clear, concise language stating what's going to happen. Really the best way to understand this is to model it after existing resolutions. You need to remember that you're giving mandates, not suggestions, so you want concrete language. A good example can be seen in GAR#508, "Restrictions on Forced Eugenics," written by Maowi:
1. Forbids member states, or the governments of any political subdivision thereof, from incentivising the genetic modification of any sapient offspring prior to their birth, except for incentivising the remedy or elimination of disorders, disabilities, or diseases;
2. Prohibits any individual or entity from genetically modifying or commanding the genetic modification of sapient offspring prior to their birth without the informed consent of the offspring's legal guardians; and
3. Forbids any individual or entity from compelling, forcing, or coercing a legal guardian to give consent to the genetic modification of their offspring prior to their birth.
Some resolutions will involve the creation of committees. If a committee is created, it must serve to facilitate the mandates you're setting out, it can't simply exist for the sake of bureaucracy. GAR#397 is one example of how a committee can be implemented with clear goals and duties which interlock with the responsibilities of the member states.
Many times, resolutions will be written by more than one person. Maybe you and a friend both decided at the outset to work together, or maybe somebody later in the process gave you enough suggestions that they had a significant hand in its creation. In these cases, you'd list them as a co-author. You'd note this in the forum thread (see below) and also list them as such when you submit the final version (see further below).
Step Three (3): Post a Drafting Thread
You didn't think just writing everything out was the end of it, did you? No, my friend, a proposal written only by yourself will get you nowhere. You need to sink into the tar pits of the forums and post your draft to the General Assembly forum as its own thread. This is where proposals live while they're being worked on, and anyone can drop in and give their thoughts on anything currently in progress. If you want to get involved, you can put your sharp new reading skills to work - you did read the section on reading, right? - and provide input on other people's drafts.
The forums can be a pretty harsh place with very strongly opinionated members, and the feedback you receive on your thread will likely be strongly worded and possibly written obnoxiously "in character" by other people's diplomats. Some of this feedback is going to be ideologically opposed to your entire idea, and can often be discarded. But much of what you'll receive will be worth taking to heart, both because new perspectives can expose oversights and shortcomings in your thinking and because at the end of the day, you need public approval to win a vote. Sometimes that means making concessions on your goals in order to accomplish what you can. Talking on the forums is also a good way to find out about overlapping resolutions you may have missed, similar drafts currently in progress, etc. As you discuss and receive feedback, you'll revise your draft over time, bringing it more in line with what people are willing to vote for and hopefully making it more focused and effective in the process. Remember, you're new here, and if everybody is telling you you're doing something wrong, you should probably listen to them.
Here in Refugia, we have a number of members with extensive World Assembly experience, and I strongly encourage you to discuss your idea with the region early and often, especially once you have a thread up. Getting advice from your regionmates can be a boon, and having the delegate on your side ensures an approval when it's submitted (see below) and hopefully an early positive vote when voting begins (see further below).
Drafting is a long process. You should let it cook for several weeks during this time, coming back and rereading it yourself after time away to view it with fresh eyes and seriously considering every outside opinion you get. Many proposals spend months being iterated upon on the forums before they're ready for submission. The longer you spend crafting a resolution, the more likely it is to pass at vote.
Speaking of which...
Step Four (4): Draft Some More
Seriously, really take your time with this. Just because there weren't a bunch of big pop out boxes in the last section full of quotes doesn't mean it's not important. Every new version you draft should be edited into your forum thread so people can continue to comment on the newest changes.
Step Five (5): Submit Your Proposal
Welcome back! It's been many moons since I've seen you, and you should probably get a haircut, but first let's talk about submitting your final draft to the World Assembly. Usually you'll want to inform people in your drafting thread that you're planning to submit soon, to give them a chance for some last minute criticism. When the time comes, you'll go to this page right here, select the chamber you're writing for, put in your final resolution text with all the fancy formatting and whatnot, list your co-authors, and FLAM! You've submitted a proposal! Good job!
...Of course, that doesn't mean it's over. Oh no, your long national nightmare is only just beginning.
Step Six (6): Campaigning
See, not just any old resolution that gets submitted gets voted on. In order for yours to reach the floor of the World Assembly and receive a sitewide vote, it needs approvals. World Assembly Delegates - those are the people with the most endorsements in a given region, remember - have the power to approve proposals that are in the queue. If 6% of the site's delegates - regardless of their voting power - approve a proposal, it reaches quorum and becomes eligible to be sent for a vote. This means you need to tell those delegates that your proposal exists and that it's good, actually, and deserves their approval.
To accomplish this, you're going to want to use the telegram system. You have two options: you can create batches of telegrams to send out by hand, entering each recipient's name manually; or you can send a message to the delegate tag and have it go to everybody at once. For this option you'll need stamps, which means paying some of your hard-earned money to NationStates: 1 stamp == 1 recipient, and you can get 1,000 stamps for $1 USD. If you come up a few stamps short, you can manually exclude specific delegates from your message, maybe people who are inactive or who you think will be unlikely to support it.
But what should your telegram say? A good campaign is short, polite, and easy for the recipient to deal with. This is not the venue for you to make a long-winded case for your idea. Nobody will read it and you'll be disappointed. Here's a sample I might use for a currently fictitious proposal:
I'm writing to ask for your approval on Condemn Snackistan. For too long this bad apple has spoiled the bunch, raiding The Refrigerator and occupying The Orchard amid their many other rotten exploits. Please allow this menace to be properly sanctioned by our so incredibly august chamber by bringing this matter to a vote.
You can view and approve the proposal here:
[THIS IS WHERE THE LINK GOES]
It makes a very tidy summary of the claims which are substantiated in the full proposal and asks the reader not to agree with it, but to acknowledge that it's worthy of being voted upon. And it offers a direct link for the delegate to click on without having to go digging for your page, which makes it easier for them to click approve and move on.
One more important note: you must mark your telegram as a campaign telegram when you're preparing to send it. Sending campaigns that aren't registered as such is against site rules and will get you in trouble and nobody will like you.
Step Seven (7): Going to a Vote
So you've written your idea into reality, honed it, submitted it, and convinced a bunch of other people that it's pretty decent. Now what happens? Well, NationStates updates its site twice a day, at 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Pacific time. At these times, if there's no proposal currently at vote in the chamber, or if a proposal's voting period is ending at that time, the site will pull the next submission which is currently at quorum and place it at vote. When there are multiple proposals at quorum, it'll be chronological by date of submission: the further back it is in the proposals page, the further back in line it is.
When the site update happens and your proposal finally reaches the floor, it'll enjoy a voting period of 96 hours. But the initial few minutes can be important: many regulars will try to be there to get their votes in early to affect the public perception. More casual users are often inclined to vote with the majority, so having an early showing can get you additional support. Letting your delegate know when your proposal is expected to be at vote means they may be able to log on and give it some early help.
Once the vote is underway... well, usually you just wait and fret over what's happening. Occasionally a telegram may be sent out by opposition arguing against it, and you may decide it's worth sending out your own response to this, but this is somewhat uncommon and runs the risk of fatiguing your audience to the point of apathy. For the most part, you just watch the results roll in and see whether you've pulled it off. If you have, congratulations! It's a lot of work to write one of these things and getting it on the books is a cool accomplishment. If it ends up getting voted down, don't feel too downtrodden. You can always go back to the drawing board and try to rewrite it to try again.
Phew, that's a lot. There are a bunch of things that I missed here, like the entire Security Council, how to handle legality challenges, why some people insist on writing the most obtuse in-character forum posts when all you want is some goddamn input on your moss regulations, etc. But I hope this helps a few folks get started in what's generally a very daunting aspect of the site. I'd love to see other folks chip in and expand this to become more comprehensive, and maybe I'll come back in the future and do some more, but for now I'd just like to thank today's sponsor, Flit Cola, for making this possible, and ask you guys to hit that like button and subscribe, it really helps the nation out.